Though the Barrett-Jackson car auction's first three years at the Orange County Fairgrounds showed signs of success, officials said the cards just weren't in place for a fourth year to happen.
The overhead was too high for a sufficient profit margin at the Costa Mesa venue and an optimal 2013 date couldn't be arranged, said Craig H. Jackson, chairman and CEO of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based auction house.
"We've loved the community and the area," Jackson said. "If they build a bigger building, we'll come back to the venue. But there are a lot of venues we can go to."
Barrett-Jackson has received offers from elsewhere in the meantime, he said.
He wouldn't specify if the auction is coming back to another part of Orange County or to Southern California, only that an announcement will be made in January.
Jackson said his organization — which dubs itself as having the "world's greatest collector car auctions" — was looking for its usual late-June date in Orange County. He wanted to avoid the "June gloom" earlier in the month, but found the rest of the month wasn't working out either.
June 15 and 16 is Father's Day weekend, which wasn't optimal, and because Barrett-Jackson relies on its television coverage from the Speed channel, Jackson said, June 22 and 23 were out too. Speed will be covering Le Mans, the famed 24-hour endurance race in France, during that time.
Later dates were out because the fairgrounds preps for the Orange County Fair in July, and having it at earlier dates would be too close for comfort to Barrett-Jackson's auction in Palm Beach, Fla., in April.
"This is bittersweet," Jackson said. "I wanted this to work, but there were a lot of things that collided at the same time with Le Mans."
Barrett-Jackson not renewing its year-to-year contract is an expected $500,000 loss for the fairgrounds, said Jerome Hoban, CEO of the O.C. Fair and Event Center.
"It was a surprise to us," Hoban said of Barrett-Jackson's decision. "We were working on what weekend [the event] was going to be, but they had concluded within their camp that it was not profitable."
The car auction, which the fairgrounds had hosted since 2010, was one of the facility's biggest events of the year, he said.
About $14 million in sales came from the July auction, organizers said at the time, with nearly 54,000 people attending the three-day event.
Phil Neri, Barrett-Jackson's vice president of sales and marketing, in a letter to Hoban was complimentary of fairgrounds staff.
"Despite our joint efforts to drive attendance and bring sufficient attention to the event in a very busy area of Southern California, we have been in a negative position for three straight years," Neri wrote. "Like the fairgrounds, we are in business to achieve a profit.
"The relationship and partnership with the fairgrounds has been stellar. This decision was very difficult on our side ... "
Kim Glen, marketing director for the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau, said her organization has had a "really good relationship with Barrett-Jackson. We know they love the city of Costa Mesa and enjoy working with us."
"We're optimistic that they'll come back," she added.
Hoban echoed the sentiment and said he was hopeful for a 2014 Barrett-Jackson event in Costa Mesa.
He called their decision "not a goodbye, just a delay for 2013."